On Wednesday, a map outlining current claims and agreements, was drawn up of future Arctic territories, by a group of British researchers. This map is meant to recognize potential disputed territories and gather all claims into one source.
The lands underneath the receding ice sheets hold the potential to house large quantities of natural resources. Oil and natural gas are just some of the projected benefits of acquiring this valuable land. With the prospect of securing new sources of wealth and materials, many countries have already entered into a number of different agreements setting boundaries in hopes of avoiding conflicts. All claims must be made in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Law of the Sea allows any state to stake their claim on any land within 200 nautical miles of its shorelines.
Disputes between boundaries are already presenting themselves which is evident in the recent news of Russia planting a flag underneath the North Pole. Russia claims the area is part of the Russian continental shelf which is being disputed by other states sighting a “Cold War” era potential.
The rush of interest stems from a recent decline in the ice layer covering the Arctic region. Warmer temperatures have caused a decline of nearly 25% in the past 30 years. At current rates, claims on these lands may be exercised within decades or sooner. Also, the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, has published a deadline of May 2009 on submitting preliminary claims.